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What would prevent a family of immortal rulers from being overthrown by their subjects?

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Erebus, Jun 6, 2021.

  1. Erebus

    Erebus Minstrel

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    The world is divided up into seven continents, each ruled by a family or clan of immortals. Altogether, these immortals number 10,000. They cannot be killed by any means, having the ability to regenerate from any damage completely. However, they possess no other abilities, being just as normal as any human. These immortals rule over mortals, which number in the tens of billions. As the members of the families cannot die, wars between nations are conducted very differently in this world. The families use mortals in proxy wars against each other, pitting their mortals against each other in gladiatorial games.

    These games are fought against nations for prestige and bragging rights as a way for immortals to compete. The games are conducted each year, where teams of mortals from one nation participate in contests against mortals from other nations, similar to the Olympics. The teams are supported and funded by the ruling clans. These contests are often deadly, and death is very common, resulting in numerous fatalities every year. At certain special events, the games are meant to simulate actual battles, where groups of mortals go to war with others in a designated, controlled environments with the specific intent to kill the other side.

    These contests satiate the immortal bloodlust and desire to compete for superiority with each other. However, it is very obvious that the families are using mortals as pawns in their proxy wars for their own entertainment. This would cause discontent among the masses, which greatly outnumber their rulers. While the family members are truly immortal, they are just like any other human physically. It isn't a stretch to say that an enterprising mortal with desires of grandeur can organize a rebellion and take power from the immortals, imprisoning or otherwise incapacitating them. In addition, their mortal subjects may simply tire of being pitted against each other in pointless wars, risking their lives for those who have the benefit of living forever for their own amusement. They could easily rise up against their oppressors and organize states which are ruled by mortals themselves. In our world, kingdoms are often overthrown by one of those things happening, and most only last a few hundred years at best.

    As you can see, the immortal empires are very vulnerable, and their rule can easily be done away with. The families need a way to preserve their rulership over the course of millennia, managing to stay in power while being grossly outnumbered. How can the immortals accomplish this?
     
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  2. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    So if the immortals cannot be killed and will always recover from any injuries, how can they be incapacitated and how can they be imprisoned? To get someone into confinement, you have to either physically force them into it, which usually isn't possible for one adult to do to another conscious adult, or threaten them with something worse: for example, point a gun at them, implying that you'll shoot them if they don't go. For an ordinary mortal, being shot is the much worse threat: it will either kill you or cause you serious, probably permanent, injury. But if these people can't die and can't sustain an irreversible injury, no such threat would have any power over them.

    If they are injured, how long does it take them to recover? If it's a matter of minutes, they're truly invulnerable. If a serious enough injury can leave them incapacitated for months, it's another story.

    For the purpose of your story, do you want the immortals to be overthrown by the mortals? Or do you want a world in which that never happens no matter what?
     
  3. Erebus

    Erebus Minstrel

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    I want the immortals to design a system in which they remain in power and are not overthrown like traditional kingdoms.

    For the purpose of your story, do you want the immortals to be overthrown by the mortals? Or do you want a world in which that never happens no matter what?[/QUOTE]
     
  4. Rosemary Tea

    Rosemary Tea Sage

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    Seems like you've already developed it. How could your immortals be overthrown?
     
  5. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

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    Look at ancient myths. There's plenty of gods and demigods that are unkillable that are still imprisoned in some way or another. Sisyphus and the boulder, Fenrir and his ribbon, Prometheus and the eagles. Fenrir was tricked into being tied up, but he did have a hunch that there were shenanigans afoot, so he would only consent to it if Tyr put his hand in his mouth. So that's how Fenrir got tied up (until Ragnarok) and Tyr lost a hand. I imagine your immortals till have emotions and "character"/"personality" flaws that can be exploited like this.

    There's two ways to prevent an immortal from being killed or disposed: literally protecting them via castles, guards, armor etc or figuratively. In my story, the phoenix king is over 10,000 years old, ruling for most of that time, and if you stab him good enough he will die...but also he's just so freaking big that would be a challenge (an ant with an ant-sized sword would have a hard time stabbing a human to death). He does have guards, magic, and walls protecting him, but more importantly, there is the belief that if, somehow, you did kill him, things wouldn't necessarily get better. Some other phoenix will rule, they'll have the same opinions and policies, so the oppressive system you hate so much will still be there....so why bother?

    I'm sure the mortals of your setting aren't very happy fighting and dying in these mock-wars, or to be starving to death, freezing to death, or whatever crappy situations are happening in these nations. But since these are immortal families, they all probably think the same, so in order to fundamentally change the system, they would all need to be captured/imprisoned. If you take out one family, then maybe another family will just forcibly annex that country, and maybe the neighbors are even worse. Historically, things have to be really terrible for the people to get to the point of inciting a revolution, and even then many people don't want that, because they think the alternatives are worse. The Dark Lord might be oppressive, but he also protects you from the enemy hordes, or keeps the dark monsters in check, or something.

    This "mental" defense system can be very powerful, but it can also be overthrown by your heroes, too. The actual powers of the immortals can be greatly exaggerated, so the populace truly believes that they are immune to all poisons, bindings, asphyxiation etc, that they truly are unable to be harmed or incapacitated in any way. No assassin has ever succeeded because there's just nothing they can do. But perhaps there really have been a number of assissnation/kidnapping attempts over the years but it's just hidden from the common people. Maybe the families are actively trying to take each other down using highly specialized poisons or traps...maybe your heroes get close to one of these families to learn these secrets and then are able to use them against everyone....lots of potential options....
     
  6. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    if the game is rigged, change the rules.

    something happens - say some unique disease or celestial event (weird solar flare, maybe) that revokes the immortals invulnerability. This is something they'd go to great effort to concel.
     
  7. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

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    Why couldn't these immortals, who control all of the wealth and resources for their respective realms simply offer a purse to the participants in these proxy wars? Perhaps these proxy wars use only those that choose to (for fame, money, etc.) or like the ancient Romans, criminals of every stripe. That way, average citizens wouldn't be affected by these proxy wars; so they probably wouldn't care much (unless of course a relative is in the games for committing a crime.)

    Another option would be a set number of "chosen" to participate in the games (1% of the population with the same demographics as exists in the realm represented). Make it so among society, it is considered a great honor to participate in these proxy wars. Maybe organizations exist in the various kingdoms to train the chosen, so they fight as well as they can during the war. Those that survive might be given places of honor among society. The more wars they survive, the more honor.

    Another odd thought that came to mind. What if these games weren't real? People fight and people die, but just for the duration of the war. After that, they are revived and go back home to their families. If there is no permanent harm to the participants, they might be okay with being used like pawns, because they can also challenge themselves and each other to do better each time.
     
  8. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

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    I think the answer is a combination of compound interest and social inertia.

    Compound interest: if you are immortal, then you have a very long time to amass a stupendous amount of money, and it makes a lot of sense to do so. Even at a few % interest per year, letting it run for a thousand years gives you an incredible amount of money. The real world example is Warren Buffet. he's become the world riches man simply by making 20% interest on his investments for 60 odd years. Lower that % but increase the time length and you're looking at similar numbers. In your world then, money would be concentrated in the immortal families, and in such a way that they could pay off or get rid of anyone who becomes too ambitious. Money after all is power.

    Social inertia is the fact that people tend to kepe thing the same, even if they're misserable, unless either something big changes or something from the outside interferes with things. Outside factors are out of the question in your setting. After all, these immortals are everywhere and they all benefit from not having the system overthrown. Which only leaves internal factors. And then people will generally simply accept things work the way they do. And they might even enjoy it. Just look at the Roman "Bread and games" idea. Feed the masses, keep them entertained and they will keep quiet.

    I also think that very rarely do revolutions come from peasant origins. With only a few exceptions, it's usually the upper middle-class who revolts. They just get the support from the peasants and the military which lets them overthrow the ruler. Your upper class will all be immortal (see about compound interest), in which case a revolt would simply result in a different immortal ruling stuff.

    Lastly, Immortality lasts a long time. You can be patient if you're going to be around forever. It's very likely that there are the occasional revolts. They overthrow you, but that sentiment dies down after a generation or two. And then, a hundred or two hundred years later you can simply stage your own revolt (with your unlimited money) and come back to power.
     
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  9. Almyrigan Hero

    Almyrigan Hero Scribe

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    Us the time-tested formula for dictatorship; they're evil, but they keep the trains running on time, so to speak.

    However abusive their war games are, the simple fact is that these immortals have a theoretically limitless potential for administrative experience and understanding of human nature. They might cause a lot of problems, but by year 1,000 of their reign they'd probably know exactly how to handle any crisis that isn't of their own making; and they'd only be better at it by years 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, and 10,000.

    Heck, they've probably lived through enough revolutions to learn the cycle like the back of their hands. They'd know what sparks one, and they'd know how to dispirit and diffuse one, too. As a matter of fact, that could be the purpose of the 'proxy' wars; all that battlefield bloodshed is just for show. In the real war, they're not even commanding their own troops, but rather inciting discord in the walls of their rivals.
     
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